Olathe, Kan.-based foodservice supplier Sysco Kansas City is emphasizing its marriage of locally grown and food safety with new labels.

All boxes of the company’s Missouri- and Nebraska-grown vegetables now feature a sticker with a GAP (good agricultural practices) seal, said Pat Cipolla, director of produce marketing. The stickers were introduced in late August.

Sysco Kansas City started its local program four years ago. All of the company’s suppliers must be GAP-certified, Cipolla said.

The company’s main locally grown supplier, a Mennonite community in Rich Hill, Mo., is believed to be the first Mennonite grower community in the country to achieve GAP certification.

Sysco sells more and more local product every year, and that trend will only continue in its current direction, Cipolla said.

“We haven’t even really scratched the surface yet,” he said. “I get more calls on locally-grown than on anything, especially this time of year.”

Sysco has so many customers, it must supplement its locally produced fruits and vegetables with product from farther away, Cipolla said.

But demand for local is growing at such a fast pace, he thinks that one day in the near future, there will be peak periods where all of a certain commodity will come from local sources.

Sustainability and supporting the local economy are viable reasons for supporting locally grown, but you can’t deny the appeal of better flavor, Cipolla said.

One commodity in particular comes to mind.

“Tomatoes,” he said. “When you taste them side by side, you can tell the difference - by far.”

Squash and cucumbers are other big local items for Sysco.